Van Der Vliet touts successful pool season
Red Oak’s pool season has officially come to an end.
The pool’s final date of operation was Aug. 5. Red Oak city administrator Brad Wright said the end of the season was largely due to the same reason the season got off to a slow start: a lack of staff.
“Our help was vanishing, and it was the same thing happening throughout the state. We had kids going back to school and sports camps were starting up which were generating conflicts. We used to shoot for keeping the pool open until Labor Day, and now we’re a month in advance of that,” Wright said.
While the early closure was a bit of a letdown, Wright was still pleased with how the season had gone.
“It was a good season overall, and things have gone well. Comparatively to other pools around the area, we’ve done extremely well,” commented Wright.
Red Oak park superintendent Adam Van Der Vliet, who also serves as the pool supervisor, echoed Wright’s comments about the overall successful season.
“Overall, I am pleased with the way the season went. Was it ideal? No, but we were able to be open Monday through Friday for most of the season, and we were able to gain enough staff to open the pool for a few Saturdays also,” stated Van Der Vliet.
When the pool opened last year, the renovation project still had a few unfinished portions that construction crews were able to take care of prior to the pool’s opening this year. Wright said that allowed for a positive feeling when they opened the doors. This year, the only issue that affected the Red Oak Pool, and other area pools, was the lack of staffing.
To help increase lifeguard totals, this year the Red Oak Park and Tree Board approved a financial incentive that paid for training, and also paid a $50 referral bonus to existing lifeguards who successfully referred new lifeguard hires. Van Der Vliet felt the incentives helped with some of the staffing shortages.
“It definitely helped some. Quite a few of the new guards took advantage of it. Next year we will be able to tell for sure, as hopefully word gets around sooner about the incentives we’re offering, and we’ll be able to hire them ahead of the pool season starting, rather than after the pool is open,” advised Van Der Vliet. “I expect as we get ready for the next pool season, the Red Oak Park and Tree Board will be examining the current incentives and will be looking at other potential incentive options to help us attract enough new lifeguards to hopefully keep the pool open even longer.”
Also, while the pool’s attendance for the season was down from last year, it was still high. Wright attributed several factors to the slight downturn in attendance this season.
“I’m sure part of this was due to last year’s excitement of the first year for the newly renovated facility. Other factors such as gas prices and inflation have also cut into people’s discretionary spending. The reduced days that we were able to be open for the season due to limited staffing is what significantly cut into our overall attendance for the year,” explained Wright.
That inflation, and the high gas prices, meant that the pool was visited less frequently this season by out of town patrons.
“We do see residents from other counties, Last year, we maybe saw more repeat visitors from other counties but this year with gas prices so high I would guess we had more single time visits from out of county residents, and our repeat traffic was from patrons in Red Oak and in-county residents,” Van Der Vliet said.
As was the case in 2021, Van Der Vliet said the response from the pool’s patrons was overwhelmingly positive.
“We got a lot of positive feedback. Families really like the zero-depth entry and family slide. Then the further south you go in the pool, older kids and adults really enjoy the rock climbing wall and new diving board. People were also really happy to have the concession stand back with more food options,” Van Der Vliet commented.
While the pool is now closed for the season, Van Der Vliet said they are looking to do a doggie dip event at the pool on Aug. 28. Further details on the event are pending.